Google+ sees huge bump in users

Google's social networking site boasted an increase of more than 100 million active users in the last six months, plus rolled out 18 updates to the site with a focus on sharing and editing photos and video.

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    The Google+ logo on the Google homepage. Googlers can now email anyone on Google+, which has sent privacy advocates on a tizzy.
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Google+ wants to help you “archive your life”. Now it has the tools to do it.

Google gathered members of the media at an art gallery in San Francisco Tuesday to debut 18 new features to Google+, many focused on photo and video functions. The tech company also announced some surprising updates to Google+’s user numbers, which could hint at the future of Google’s social media identity, in the midst of major transitions for social media sites across the board.

Members of the media gathered at NWBLK, a hybrid gallery/shop/gathering space, and were greeted with professional-grade photographs hung around the venue. The images were meant to hint at the vast array of updates to come.

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“Google aims to revolutionize photography … and how you tell your story across photos and videos,” says Vic Gundotra, the senior vice president of engineering for Google, according to VentureBeat.

Google+ users have more enhancement options than ever before. You can auto-enhance entire albums at once, or spend hours micro-editing single photos with Photoshop-esque tools. Google added an “Auto Awesome Erase” features which will eliminate any strangers or errant objects in the background of photos (take that, photo bombers!), and will now support all photo sizes and resolutions, no matter how big or detailed. 

The social media site will also feature something called “Auto Awesome Video”, which will automatically convert photos and videos into a short movie with audio overlay. This is done by grouping photos taken around the same time, choosing which files are the most interesting and highest quality, and then putting them all together in a ready-made video. Google also added 1,000 search terms to its algorithms, and will auto-tag certain photos so more images will pop up in each search.

Outside of photography, Google Hangouts got a couple feature updates. You can now share your location with other users, share GIFs, view chats in full HD video, chat in black and white, and blur out the background of your video using the “spotlight” feature. Google+ users can also now send messages and updates via SMS messaging.

All these updates were combined with the announcement that Google+ now has 300 million active users, up from 190 million in May. Plus Google announced that more than 1.5 billion photos are uploaded to the site every week. The new updates could both cater to the social network’s photography clientele while reaching out to those looking for a more comprehensive way to create, edit, and share photo and video projects.

Google isn’t the only social media site to focus on its identity as of late. Facebook recently updated its privacy settings making all its users searchable via Facebook search, and allowed teens to start sharing publicly, both moves making individual users more responsible for what content they share across networks. Instagram rolled out ads on feeds this week, as it tries new ways to boost revenue, though it assured users the images would be “beautiful” and “high-quality”. Twitter, which is likely filing its IPO this month, has been experimenting with direct messages for businesses and emergency alerts, perhaps opening up to more one-on-one communication between users.

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